Dan Gilbert has become one of the most successful businessmen in the NBA. In this piece, we’ll take a look at how the Detroit native came to be the majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Gilbert was born in Detroit, Michigan, and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University, as well as a Juris Doctor from Wayne State University Law School. He also worked as a part-time real estate agent with his parents while in college — a field that he would later thrive in.
In 1985, a 22-year-old Gilbert founded a mortgage company with his younger brother, Gary. Rock Financial, as it was known, went on to become one of the largest independent mortgage lenders in the United States. The company would later be renamed to Quicken Loans.
According to a report from Forbes, Dan Gilbert started his mortgage company with just $5,000 that he earned selling pizzas in college. Now the 58-year-old is worth an estimated $6.8 billion.
Gilbert’s interest in owning an NBA franchise came in 2005, when he purchased a 72 percent stake in the Cleveland Cavaliers. On his watch, the Cavs won six Central Division titles, five Eastern Conference championships, and ended a 52-year championship drought for the city in 2016.
An estimated 1.3 million people lined the streets of downtown Cleveland for the Cavs’ championship parade. Dan Gilbert touched on what the title meant to the city during the festivities:
Dan Gilbert didn’t stop with the Cavs, though. He also purchased the Utah Grizzlies franchise of the American Hockey League, then moved it to Cleveland under the name of the Lake Erie Monsters (now Cleveland Monsters). He also bought the New Mexico Thunderbirds from the NBA’s Developmental League (now the G League) in 2007, then moved that team to Canton, Ohio, where they now play as the Canton Charge. And in 2012, he became the new owner of the Arena Football League’s Cleveland Gladiators.
Sports franchises and mortgages aren’t the only business ventures that Gilbert has interest in, though. He’s also expanded into the casino industry. In 2009, he and his business partners backed a statewide referendum to bring casino gaming to Ohio’s four largest cities. The first of the casinos, Horseshoe Cleveland, opened in May 2012.
Unfortunately, Dan Gilbert suffered a stroke at a Memorial Day party in 2019. Doctors found a clot in his carotid artery that cut the blood flow to his brain, leaving him temporarily paralyzed. Seven stents were planted inside the artery to open the blood vessel.
“When you have a stroke, here’s the problem with it: Everything is hard. Everything,” Gilbert told Chad Livengood of Crain’s Detroit Business. “Like you wake up, getting out of bed is hard, going to the bathroom is hard, sitting down eating at a table is hard. You name it. You don’t get a break. You’re like trapped in your own body.”
Gilbert returned to work earlier this year, though he was using a wheelchair and service dog, while also working with a therapist from his home:
“The (left) leg is almost there,” Gilbert explained, via Bleacher Report. “I can walk with a cane and all that. It just takes a little longer in the arm.”
Simply put, Dan Gilbert has done a lot for sports in the city of Cleveland. Join us in wishing him well as he continues to recover.